Chapter 13: All the Gals I've had
Dwayne jogs Monday morning around the plaza in Santa Fe near where The Lonely Players will be performing that evening. This is the first morning he has jogged since they have been on the road, but he needs to clear his head and put the events of the last few days in perspective. The sky is clear of any clouds and is a solid blue color. A sound of a plane flying makes Dwayne realize that his blue dreams are devoid of sound. In this moment, it is a beautiful morning in a beautiful city. He tries to concentrate on that fact; in this moment. For now, if he could live just in this moment. He stops to take a long look at the outside of a historic Catholic Church. Dwayne was raised Catholic, but Dani was Baptist and, when he has gone to church as an adult, it has been to Protestant churches. The church he stares at now is ornate, large, Spanish, magnificent- very unlike the modest one Dwayne attended as a boy. Dwayne lingers as much to catch his breath as to enjoy the ascetics. He is having trouble breathing in the higher altitude. Sunday’s performance, at the festival in Taos, was the first bad performance so far in the band’s nine performances during the first ten days of tour. They were tired. It was a grueling schedule to begin with and the news that, in all likelihood the band as it is currently configured will end this summer (with possibly just Dwayne and Henry going forward) was emotional for everyone involved. The headliner at the festival had watched from backstage. He told Dwayne afterwards that it always took one day to adjust to the altitude. Dwayne appreciated the excuse, but felt bad for the audience. In this case, there had been lots of other bands including the headliner. Still, it is the first taste of the failure Dwayne has feared. Dwayne hopes that it is the last bad show of the summer. However he is no longer afraid of failure for himself. He is no longer nervous about the sound or about being the lead singer. The conversation yesterday had shifted his focus. He wants to give Alex the best summer he can. Dwayne goes back in his mind trying to remember the details of the last couple of weeks; every conversation and interaction with his closest friend. He is acutely aware of the fact that all the changes Alex had insisted upon for Dwayne and the Lonely Players had been successful. Time for Dwayne to give back. He ponders how to deliver on the best next few weeks of Alex’s life. Dwayne stops at a coffee shop near the motel and pulls his buzzing phone out of his pants to answer.
An hour and a half later, he knocks on Alex’s motel room door. Santa Fe is an expensive town for lodging. They opted for an older style motel. It could use an update, but the sixties motif was supposed to be one of its charms. In fact, the “charm” that costs so much was tacky decorations, uncomfortable beds and a lack of basic amenities. They were planning on staying here for three nights. Dwayne knocks a little louder and with less trepidation. It is unusual for either friend to go to the other’s room while on the road. Dwayne has never thought about why before. Alex opens the door. His blank stare, shirtless skinny chest, and gray hair standing straight on top of his head informs Dwayne that Alex had been asleep. Dwayne hands Alex one of the two cups of coffee he brought with him, walks into the room silently, sinks down into a chair, lays his head back and closes his eyes for a few minutes. He opens his eyes and looks at the horseshoe and cowboy pictures on the wall. The room is decorated in a style that someone from Manhattan fifty years ago thought was Western. Dwayne improves his posture in the chair to fully alert and upright and takes a sip from his coffee. Alex has gone to the restroom. Dwayne can hear his stream hitting the water. The toilet flushes, the water from the faucet is on, Alex coughs loudly and repeatedly. Dwayne realizes he is listening intently for every sound, every action, as if listening for…what? Alex comes out rubbing his eyes.
Dwayne: This mountain air will kill you if you try to run in it.
Alex: And there was a marathon this morning I was going to enter. Since it’s only ten o’clock maybe I will go back to bed instead.
Dwayne: I have been on the phone. We have changes to our schedule the next two days.
Alex: We don’t have a schedule the next two days. We have a couple of days off.
Dwayne: Not anymore.
Alex: Why? No. Back to bed. We just had one more night to get through to two days off.
Dwayne: I’ve never seen you when you first wake up. You’re kind of a grumpy old man.
Alex gives Dwayne a fuck you look, takes the lid off the coffee and smells it before he takes a good long gulp of it. He pulls the other chair in the room away from the table over to the bed and sits in the chair with his legs up on the bed. He begins to cough again; the ritual morning clearing of his lungs. He stops by sheer will and looks at Dwayne.
Alex: This old, hard bed gave me leg cramps all night. Out with it.
Dwayne: A marketing person for a hotel in downtown Albuquerque called me. They’re sponsoring a concert at a venue in a historic theater. Seats 1000. They’ve sold 750 tickets already.
When Alex hears the band the hotel was sponsoring, he stands up and moves his chair back to the table. Suddenly the grumpy old man’s eyes are twinkling and a smile works its way to his face.
Alex: To use Tom’s lingo, I could fan girl them. They want us to open?
Dwayne: Fan-girl? Never mind. Lead Guitarist got into a fight Saturday night. He hurt his hand and can’t play.
Alex: They want you to fill in.
Dwayne: No. They have to cancel. The fight was with the drummer so I guess they are working some issues out. The hotel, though, has sold all these rooms as part of the package. You know with the holiday tomorrow and the band on Wednesday, they invested a lot into their marketing for these packaged deals. They will take a killing.
Alex: Tough break…
Dwayne: So the marketing director came up with a scheme to offset their losses. They want us to replace the band. People can either have their money back or can come see us instead. They are going to start showing that piece from Tahoe on the air tonight. Also, the local television station from Tucson is done with their piece on modern Cowboys and somebody with some power apparently convinced them to share it quickly with the Albuquerque public broadcasting station. It’s airing tomorrow.
Alex: (Aware that Tony must have pulled some strings- maybe made some contributions- related to the PBS affiliates). They think we have the draw?
Dwayne: It’s the night after a holiday so some people are just on vacation and would still be coming into Albuquerque- might not care who they see. We could play to another 500 people assuming 250 ask for refunds. That’s the estimate the marketing director came up with.
Alex: Sounds good.
Dwayne: Paying twice what we are earning anywhere else and complete comp for tomorrow and Wednesday night –luxury four stars accommodations-rooms and food.
Alex: Well, count me in, after this hard bed last night I could use a night or two on a comfortable bed and some high quality food delivered to my door.
Dwayne: Only one thing. They want us to record our version of “The First Time” for commercial air play and have some marketing pictures taken. They want to promote the rest of the summer that they “sponsored” us in Albuquerque. It will just be a digital recording for air play. No hard pressing or sale, but it is a way for them to keep the publicity through the rest of the summer.
Alex: You always said we’re not a recording band.
Dwayne: Things change.
Alex: Not because of me…
Dwayne: I want a professional recording of the band the way we are now today. Call me sentimental.
Alex: (under his breath and as an aside) Sentimental.
The two men drink a few sips of their coffee. Each is lost in their own thoughts for a few minutes.
Alex: Wait…When do they want all of this if the concerts Wednesday, tomorrow’s a holiday and we have another gig in another town on Thursday?
Dwayne: The marketing pictures we will do today here in Santa Fe. The recording is harder. There’s a place in Clovis with an engineer willing to let us record tomorrow. It means traveling tonight again after the concert, recording tomorrow, driving to Albuquerque tomorrow night.
Alex: Anything’s better than this motel another night. Shit, Dwayne, I never thought when I asked you to change the sound and become the lead that in less than two weeks we would have all this publicity, play larger gigs and be recording.
Dwayne: I’ve been meaning to ask you. What did you think would happen by changing the sound and having me be front man?
Alex: Oh, I knew it would happen this way. I just thought it would take at least three weeks.
Dwayne laughs. He needs to tell the other guys. He needs to make hotel arrangements and contact their bus service. He wants to take a nap and get some beauty rest before the marketing pictures and the show tonight. Alex laughs at him talking about beauty rest and reminds him to bring his cowboy hat and dulcimer to the photo shoot. Alex tells Dwayne to wear a real shirt- keep those biceps concealed for now. They are the Lonely Players’ secret weapon. Dwayne laughs again. He says it is time to leave.
He doesn’t leave, though. He sits and thinks with his face gradually going from laughter to sadness. His hands are folded in his lap. His eyes are cast downward.
Alex: Something on your mind, Professor.
Dwayne: I’m so sorry, Alex that I didn’t pick up on something was going on…
Alex: Shut up.
Dwayne: Why don’t we ever really talk to each other about, you know, serious things?
Alex: Because we’re not dating.
Dwayne: I know I can be a cold, arrogant, distant bastard.
Alex: Shut the fuck up. I’m not one of your women. I wanted to avoid this type of thing entirely.
Dwayne: What does it mean if we are best friends and can’t at this moment talk about anything real?
Alex: Fine. We can talk about anything you want to talk about.
Dwayne: What exactly is going on? Will you be getting any treatment? Will you be in pain?
Alex: No treatment-nothing like that and I will be fine. I’m just retirement age. It’s time for a little relaxation.
The two men make brief eye contact. It’s like that is it, Dwayne thinks. He knows at that moment that whatever is going on is more serious than Alex is saying. Dwayne turns his eyes away. He nods. He looks Alex in the eyes again. Maybe men express themselves in other ways and Dwayne has never really learned the language.
Dwayne: Fine. You want to get lazy on me - that’s fine, but expect me at your house every chance I get. You will still be able to cook, right? I will come over and play for you while you fry me up some catfish.
Alex laughs: Gawd. I guess now we are dating. You are going to be okay, you know. You’re smarter and wiser than you were twenty years ago.
Dwayne: I sometimes think I keep repeating the same mistakes over and over without learning anything.
Alex: You’re a stubborn one. It takes a couple of lessons sometimes, but you’re ready now. You know what you need?
Dwayne: To shake my ass more?
Alex: I created a monster. You need a woman- not like you’ve had, but a real woman. Someone your age who is smart like you.
Dwayne: If I found that woman, I would just hurt her and that really would destroy me. That is the last thing I need.
Alex: No. You blame yourself, but they weren’t the right women is all. They sound wonderful in their way, but you need a strong woman, an independent, self-reliant woman. The woman you had all seem like their worlds rotated around you. You need a woman where you have to spin a little bit around her. Work a little bit to get her to notice you.
Dwayne: Expert advice from the old man who has never been married. You know I have been in love with two very wonderful women. I have gone to bed with...let me think now, how many?
Alex: Jesus Christ, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know- more than 50?
Dwayne: (Thinking about the language of men he still has to learn). Tell you what. I will think of my top twenty and, after you retire, I will tell you in details about each one.
Alex: I would like that to pass some time. Is the journalist in the top twenty?
Dwayne: (thinking of Jackie wearing nothing but those stupid boots and his cowboy hat nods). She is probably in top five. If I was twenty years younger or she was twenty years older… I don’t know. At this stage in my life, if I was to fall in love with a woman my own age and she was single, then she would have a past. Her heart would have been broken at least once. You know it might be hard to think about how she might trust me. Then, it might be even harder if I hurt her. At least with Dani and Carolyn, I was the first bastard to break their hearts. Hopefully they are with men now they are happy with, but at my age, a new love with a woman my age? I wouldn’t want to be just another in a long line of men to hurt a woman. The last man to break a woman’s heart? I would hate myself.
Alex: You know that line of thinking should be in a song or a poem. Are you ready to start writing?
Dwayne: Sure, but I won’t be able to. I will take a nap and dream of a woman in a world of blue. That’s all I will be able to do.